The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is represented by the Brussels Photonics Team (B-PHOT) which is an international centre of excellence in the domain of optics and photonics and internationally recognized for its basic, strategic, applied and industrial research in these fields. The department hosts over 50 researchers whose R&D activities are coordinated by Prof. Hugo Thienpont. Academic staff and students alike have over 10 years of experience in Photonics outreach.
The VUB will take up the role as coordinator and work package leader of WP1&4. VUB will further be involved in the development of workshops and a challenger project, in the Gender Action Team, in the roll-out and dissemination activities of the project.
B-PHOT, VUB has built up a track record in outreach EU projects, such as in EXPEKT as coordinator and GOPHOTON as work package leader. B-PHOT also has vast experience in holding Photonics outreach events that reach a wide audience from the community. The team has initiated and conducted several successful activities such as the ‘Photonics Science Show’ (attended by 1500 secondary school students every year), the exhibition ‘Discover the power of Light’ (visited by more than 270 000 people in 4 months) as well as coordinated EU projects that resulted in the ‘NEMO Edukit’ and the Photonics Explorer (almost 2500 kits distributed among teachers in Europe). Furthermore during the GoPhoton project B-PHOT has developed the Photonics Innovator Kit. To stimulate and support innovative entrepreneurship in the domain of Photonics, B-PHOT also organizes the “Intensive Training on Entrepreneurship in Photonics” targeting researchers of universities and research institutes, young professionals, employees of Photonics-related companies etc. B-PHOT is founding member of ECOP, the European Center for Outreach in Photonics.
Of particular relevance to ‘PHABLABS4.0’ is the experience gained during the development and EU wide distribution of the Photonics Explorer intra-curricular educational kit developed in the EXPEKT project. The kit was developed with a pan-European collaboration of networks, including over 35 teachers, pedagogic experts and key stakeholders in EU Photonics. The project included the development and testing of the kit in 7 EU countries with various Local Associated Partners, co-ordinated by members of B-PHOT and supported by an EU wide network. The mass distribution of the Photonics Explorer is currently handled by a Belgium based NPO, EYESTvzw, a spin-off of B-PHOT. Over 2500 teachers in 24 EU countries have been trained and are implementing the kit in their classrooms reaching hundred thousands of students every year. Several links have been established to international organisations such as Science on Stage Europe, European Schoolnet, SPIE and OSA. The VUB is also member of the national STEM charter Platform.